In 1550, Robert Crowley published three editions of the late medieval poem The Vision of Piers Plowman. These editions have often been seen as violently appropriative, wrenching the poem into a role as Reformation prophecy and propaganda. However, Crowley’s preface and marginalia demonstrate a persistent anxiety about the prophetic matter of Langland’s work. Repeatedly, Crowley constrains the possibility of a reader’s viewing parts of the text as prophecy. This nervousness is produced by the sharply contemporary connections drawn between verse prophecy and sedition following Kett’s rebellion (1549), in the period in which Crowley was preparing his editions of Piers Plowman. This connection is intimated in near contemporary accounts of Kett’s rebellion which were echoed and remembered throughout the sixteenth century, legislation produced by the Edwardian government in the midcentury, and finally in Crowley’s own writing published in 1550, much of which was produced in direct response to Kett’s rebellion.
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